Movie sequels so bad they ended a franchise

Movie studios love nothing more than a franchise, but Hollywood has its limits when it comes to putting good money after bad. Even the widest brand recognition isn't always enough to keep the sequels coming. Here are some particularly infamous examples of movies that sent their franchises back to the drawing board…or killed them off completely.

Batman and Robin

The Batman franchise kept right on rolling through three leading men over the space of four films in the '80s and '90s. But it all came to a screeching halt with 1997's Batman & Robin, which found George Clooney taking over the starring role. Director Joel Schumacher's campy tone—which started with Batman Forever as a deliberate attempt to honor the '60s Batman TV series and was ratcheted up even further with Batman & Robin—felt like a step back after the somewhat more serious earlier installments in the franchise. The studio started developing a sequel even before Batman & Robin arrived in theaters, but wretched reviews and disappointing box-office grosses brought those plans to a halt. It would take nearly a decade, and director Christopher Nolan's far grittier outlook, to bring a rebooted Caped Crusader back to the screen with 2005's Batman Begins.

Star Trek: Nemesis

Star Trek had a pretty remarkable run at the box office, firing off 10 films in 23 years while ruling the syndicated airwaves with a small army of TV shows. By the early aughts, however, the franchise had arrived at an uncomfortable crossroads. The low-rated Star Trek: Enterprise was its last show remaining on the air, and grosses for the films had been solid but unimpressive over the three sequels since the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation took over for the original crew. It all added up to a reduced budget and an action-heavy approach for 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis, neither of which were a good fit for the thinking-person's sci-fi for which the series had always been known. Opening in a year-end blockbuster rush that also included Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Bond sequels, Nemesis was all but ignored at the box office—probably a good thing, considering the disastrous reviews. This installment's crash landing was enough to keep Star Trek out of theaters until J.J. Abrams rebooted the franchise in 2009.

Beverly Hills Cop 3

The original Beverly Hills Cop was one of the funniest films of the '80s, but the law of diminishing returns weighed heavy on its sequels. After striking comedy gold with Eddie Murphy as a fish-out-of-water Detroit cop in sunny L.A., the studio doubled down on action set pieces at the expense of the sharp humor that gave Cop its added kick. The swollen price tag that went along with Murphy's increased celebrity didn't help. With 1994's Beverly Hills Cop III, the franchise completely lost its way, putting Murphy's Detective Axel Foley in the midst of a convoluted and downright dull amusement park mystery that all the tailpipe bananas in the world couldn't fix. There have been numerous attempts to put together a Beverly Hills Cop IV over the years, but they've all died in development.

Blade: Trinity

The Blade franchise had years of comic stories to draw from, Wesley Snipes in his prime, and plenty of kung fu vampire action. All the ingredients were there to keep the sequels coming after 2004's Blade: Trinity, in other words. But this third installment's middling reviews and disappointing grosses were only part of an epic collapse that started unraveling while the cameras were still rolling. Snipes—who in addition to starring in the lead role was also a Blade producer—reportedly engaged in all sorts of eccentric behavior behind the scenes, like trying to strangle the director, among other things. He was so unhappy after Trinity's release that he ended up suing the studio. In the years since Trinity flopped, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has helped make superheros big business, but Blade, a Marvel character, has remained on the sidelines.

RoboCop 3

Fewer film franchises have endured a faster fall from grace than the RoboCop series. The 1987 original was a critical and commercial smash, and unlike a lot of hit films, its storyline had all sorts of obvious sequel potential. Star Peter Weller departed after 1990's disappointing RoboCop 2, which wasn't that big of a deal since his mouth was the only part of his body not covered by his futuristic super-suit. But even if he'd stayed, it's unlikely that RoboCop 3 would have been a hit. The studio was busy going bankrupt during filming and the violence was curtailed in an effort to make things more accessible for younger fans, leaving the end result a low-budget shell of the original. RoboCop 3 sat in the vault for a year before limping into theaters in 1993, and it'd be another 11 years before the franchise returned with a reboot. Meanwhile, a sequel to the reboot remains a question mark as of this writing.

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation

Mortal Kombat was a surprise hit in 1995, raking in more than $100 million in spite of the fact that, like the video game that inspired it, it was little more than a series of fight scenes held together by a few shreds of ludicrous plotting. It's hard to blame the studio for trying to make lightning strike twice with 1997's Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, but even by the original's relaxed standards, it's a flimsy excuse for a movie. And this time, audiences agreed, staying away in droves. Another sequel was in the planning stages for years, but despite the occasional rumor, the Kombat film franchise has remained in limbo ever since.

Jaws: The Revenge

Question one: how do you make a sequel to a movie about a killer shark who dies in the final act? Question two: why would you even bother? The answer to the second question is "money," but there really isn't a good answer to the first, as the Jaws franchise demonstrated repeatedly over the years. The studio cranked out your basic rehash for Jaws 2, then got desperate for ideas, resorting to a cheap gimmick for 1983's Jaws 3-D. But that silliness pales in comparison to Jaws: The Revenge, which imagines a shark deliberately picking off members of the first film's central family in retaliation. Hampered by low-budget effects and a script that, at one point, attributed the shark's murder spree to the work of a vengeful witch doctor, the fourth Jaws was a complete critical and financial disaster. Even in an era of constant reboots, this is one franchise that's remained blissfully underwater.

Alien: Resurrection

Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley has always been the cornerstone of the Alien franchise, and her death at the end of 1992's Alien 3 seemed to mark the end of the series. But where there's potential to make money there's almost always a sequel. So in 1997, Weaver returned for Alien: Resurrection, which jumps 200 years ahead of its predecessor and brings back Ripley as an Alien-birthing clone. Audiences didn't respond as well as they had to previous installments, proven by the fact that the movie debuted behind the Robin Williams comedy Flubber at the box office. And critics were generally unkind to what they deemed a series that had lost its luster. The studio later looted the franchise for spare parts with the Aliens vs. Predator movies, seemingly cutting off any possibility for another true sequel. In 2015, it briefly looked as though Alien 5 was ready to go with Weaver back and director Neill Blomkamp at the helm, but it was ultimately shelved—ironically due to the success of the Alien prequel Prometheus, which director Ridley Scott planned on spinning off into its own franchise.

Superman 4: The Quest for Peace

Henry Cavill is fine and all, but for more than a few filmgoers, Christopher Reeve will always be the true Superman. Which makes it even more of a shame that Reeve's version of the character went down in the toxic plume of silliness known as Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Lured back to the franchise with the promise of a socially relevant story, Reeve did his best to bring a sense of dignity to this 1987 debacle, which pits Superman against a solar-powered villain created by Lex Luthor and dubbed Nuclear Man. The studio's financial troubles, however, hobbled the movie, forcing the director to re-use footage and skimp on the special effects. It would take nearly 20 years, and countless aborted attempts, before the character returned to theaters with the Superman Returns reboot, which was itself just a prelude for yet another reboot with 2013's Man of Steel.

Halloween: Resurrection

After laying low for much of the '80s, Michael Myers returned with 1988's aptly titled Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, which kicked off a trilogy of cheap slashers that built a backstory (however ludicrous) for the mute, masked serial killer. That was all retconned out of existence for 1998's Halloween H20: 20 Years later, which jumped back and acted as a direct sequel to Halloween II. After H20 racked up nearly $75 million at the box office, another sequel was guaranteed. Unfortunately, no one bothered to show up for the falsely titled Halloween: Resurrection, which added Busta Rhymes to the cast and a reality TV-inspired horror-comedy tone. Subsequently rebooted for a pair of moderately successful Rob Zombie-directed reboots, the franchise remains currently out of commission with no new releases on the horizon as of this writing.

The Jewel of the Nile

With its comedy-meets-adventure plots and 1930s throwback feel, 1984's Romancing the Stone and its sequel, 1985's The Jewel of the Nile, earned comparisons to another swashbuckling '80s franchise—in fact, Time straight up called Romancing the Stone a Raiders of the Lost Ark ripoff. That wasn't really fair, though. Centered around the bickering Jack Colton (Michael Douglas) and Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner), the two movies were more a sort of rom-com spin on the serials that inspired Indiana Jones, with a yuppie twist.

Accusations of unoriginality notwithstanding, Romancing the Stone made a hefty $76 million at the American box office, making a sequel a foregone conclusion. The Jewel of the Nile brought back the original cast (Douglas, Turner, and Danny DeVito), but director Robert Zemeckis—busy working on Back to the Future—had to be replaced with a guy named Lewis Teague, whose credits at the time included the period gangster romance The Lady in Red and the Stephen King adaptation Cujo. Reviews were middling at best (Jewel has a 48 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), putting a chill on talks for a third movie in the series. Called The Crimson Eagle, it would have followed Jack, Joan, and their kids on a hunt for treasure in Thailand. After puttering around in development, the sequel stalled—as did rumors of a remake that allegedly would have starred Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler.

Speed 2

No matter how implausible it gets for John McClane to keep encountering terrorists wherever he goes, Hollywood keeps churning out Die Hard movies. The same off-the-wall sequelitis might have followed the original Speed—the hit 1994 action classic was essentially Die Hard on a bus, and cop Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) and plucky Annie (Sandra Bullock, in her breakout role) could've later found themselves trapped on all manner of moving vehicles hijacked by crazed criminals. But the Speed franchise was left dead in the water following the release of Speed 2: Cruise Control.

Reeves decided not to reprise his role, so the sequel followed Annie on a cruise with her new cop boyfriend Alex Shaw (she obviously had a type), portrayed by series newcomer Jason Patric. The bd guy the second time around was a computer hacker, played by an especially unhinged Willem Dafoe, but neither Bullock's return nor Dafoe's villainous antics were enough to create a need for more Speed in the audience. Earning a disappointing $48 million at the box office in the U.S., Speed 2 was one of the more disappointing high-profile releases of the year. Nominated for eight Razzie Awards (it won "Worst Remake or Sequel"), it currently holds a shockingly low 3 percent at Rotten Tomatoes, and we've yet to see a Speed 3—although you can bet Reeves' tongue-in-cheek suggestion for a third installment triggered a few script meetings at the studio.

Grease 2

Here's a classic example of how not to do a sequel. Gone from the original Grease were director Randal Kleiser, stars John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, and composers Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. The one major thing that did carry over from Grease to Grease 2? The plot. It's almost a complete rehash, except the roles are gender-swapped. In Grease 2, the straight-laced foreigner at Rydell High is a boy (Maxwell Caulfield) who has romantic feelings for a girl (Michelle Pfeiffer). Needless to say, Grease 2—which came out four years after the original—was not a huge hit. It made $15 million at the box office, about 10 percent of what Grease earned in the States alone.

According to original Grease cast member Didi Conn (who briefly appeared in the sequel), the studio's low expectations for the first film ultimately doomed Grease 2. "There was a setup in the first film for a sequel about summer school, but Paramount didn't know Grease was going to be such a success, so they passed," she told TV Guide. "By the time they got around to it, they couldn't get John anymore. So they came up with a new concept." Talk of a third Grease occasionally bubbles up, including a spate of rumors in 2003 regarding a proposed story that would bring the original cast back together for a high school reunion, but it always fizzles. "The scripts are not right they're sad, and everybody's a loser," Conn explained. "I don't think John is interested anymore, and he's convinced Olivia not to do it."

Vegas Vacation

The Griswolds had already endured a horrible road trip to Wally World (in National Lampoon's Vacation), a horrible trip to Europe (National Lampoon's European Vacation), and a horrible Christmas where they stayed at home (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation). By 1997, the only place left to go was Vegas, baby. The fourth film in the series didn't score with critics or audiences—perhaps because it was the first Vacation movie to not bear the "National Lampoon" seal of approval, or to be at least partially scripted by John Hughes. (And despite being set in Sin City, it's also the only Vacation movie to earn a PG rating.) Vegas Vacation took in $36 million at the box office, about half of Christmas Vacation, sending the franchise into a long theatrical deep freeze. A few Vacation vets returned for the ill-fated direct-to-video installment National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure in 2004, but the family's next big-screen outing wouldn't come until 2015's Vacation, starring Ed Helms as the grown-up Griswold son Rusty and Christina Applegate as his long-suffering wife. Original stars Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo were relegated to a cameo—and neither the reviews nor the box office were enough to inspire the studio to move on a sequel.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

2005's Sin City was about as faithful as a comic adaptation can get. Utilizing an all-digital filming technique, Robert Rodriguez's film version of the Frank Miller comic series actually looks like a comic book in motion—perhaps owing in part to the fact that Miller himself has a co-directing credit. Dazzling visuals and a noirish plot led to critical praise and $158 million worldwide, making a sequel more a matter of "when" than "if." Despite all that success, the filmmakers took their sweet time getting the next Sin City to the big screen—it didn't arrive in theaters until 2014, nine long years after the original. By the time Sin City: A Dame to Kill For reached audiences, its once-unique visual style had been so thoroughly absorbed into the mainstream that it no longer felt fresh or innovative. A Dame to Kill For made just $39 million and suffered a critical drubbing. Before it opened, Rodriguez and Miller said they were "already talking" about a third installment, but that chatter has quieted considerably since—although on the other hand, maybe they're just taking another decade between sequels.